In the wake of last week’s mass demonstrations and heavy-handed police response, Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on Cambodians to promote a state of peace for the sake of the country’s social and economic development.
In a letter written to mark the U.N.’s International Day of Peace on Saturday, the prime minister also reminded people how his party had liberated Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge, a common refrain, and one he repeated often in the lead-up to July’s election, along with the threat that the country’s dark history could repeat itself should the CNRP win.
“The Cambodian government is committed to doing our best to improve the culture of peace for the sake of Cambodia’s development and prosperity,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote.
“I would like to appeal to all citizens to…keep peace, social order, stability and security in order to develop our country in all areas,” he continued.
Mr. Hun Sen also appealed for his countrymen to “love each other as brothers.”
The prime minister’s letter came as the inaugural session of the National Assembly is set to convene today in the absence of the CNRP and amid a drastically heightened police presence in Phnom Penh.
On September 15, 29-year-old construction worker, Mao Sok Chan was shot dead during an escalation between riot police and angry commuters near Phnom Penh’s Monivong Bridge.
Representatives of civil society groups on Sunday said the prime minister’s message is ill timed, if not outright hypocritical.
Tim Malay, president of the Cambodian Youth Network, said that if the prime minister is serious about promoting peace, he should work to ensure the CNRP is part of future political dialogue.
“There must be another political party, if the new government is to have checks and balances,” he said.
“Normally, what he [Mr. Hun Sen] said would be good,” said Oeur Narith, a facilitator for the Youth Group for Peace, a civil society organization. “But I would like to ask: Is he looking for peace for the entire country, or just his party and his family?” Mr. Narith said.
“He has been stepping on us with armed forces and weapons…. He has to provide justice to the people if he wants peace,” he said.